Naf River, Bangladesh — Bodies turn up all the time on the Naf River, the water dividing the Burmese countryside from Bangladesh. Thousands of Rohingya have been fleeing the violence that has been described as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Fleeing with just their personal belongings and loved ones, that means crossing a treacherous and brutal jungle, and crossing dangerous waters which have caused drowning after drowning—though many of them would rather risk the water than the murder, rape and torture they face in Myanmar/Burma.
Watch the harsh reality of the situation over there:
Over 600,000 Rohingya have been displaced, and many to the fishing port city of Cox’s Bazar. They have had a rough history with the locals, often considered illegal immigrants and not refugees at all. There are reportedly over 200,000 Rohingya living unregistered in Bangladesh. The secret police and the military have treated the incoming swaths of Rohingya in different ways, and recently a plan was set in motion to relocate many refugees off to a nearby island. UNHCR had heavily criticized this move when it was first introduced in 2015, since the island is prone to heavy flooding (often getting submerged during high tide), and since it is made almost entirely from silt, but the Bangladeshi government has seen fit to reintroduce the plan and move around 100,000 refugees there by 2019.
Refugee camps run up and down the Naf River in Bangladesh and there are approximately one million refugees currently in the country from the Rohingya crisis. Amnesty International has consistently reported the rape, extrajudicial killings, burning of property and other human rights abuses by the Burmese government, time and time again.
Despite its particular brutality, this is not the first ethnic minority the Burmese government has shown unrelenting violence toward—the Karen, Karenni, Kachin, Shan–all of these have suffered in similar ways as the Rohingya. Though the Karen are under a cease-fire with the Burmese government now, there are still roughly 140,000 refugees on the border in Thailand. There are around 400,000 Karen people without homes, and they are in a state of relative peace compared to the Rohingya.
The Rohingya have historically been denied the opportunity to gain citizenship in Burma, and now have been allowed to become repatriated if they can prove their (likely non-existent) citizenship. Aid workers on the ground have reported that this is simply an effort by the Burmese government to quell some of the international criticism, but it has not worked well for them.
Video and featured image courtesy of Cox’s Bazar News via YouTube